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Java.April.2017

Rosemarie Dombrowski

Rosemarie Dombrowski Phoenixs Poet Laureate By Demetrius Burns 12 JAVA MAGAZINE

Photos: Enrique Garcia One of the main functions of poetry—and all art, for that matter—is to create a watermark, a historical time stamp that anthologizes history. In other words, poets swerve historical writing in real time, in rhyme (and often out of), pointing us back to the north star of our respective periods. Phoenix’s poet laureate, Rosemarie Dombrowski, exemplifies this. Dombrowski is what you might call an anthological poet. Her field work: womanhood and raising a child with autism. “Auto-ethnography is the most authentic form of history,” Dombrowski says. “I’m a fervent believer that history is written from the inside. I don’t like the old ethnocentric paradigm. That leads to erasure. We know that as members of the disability community. We have to tell our own stories. When you bring all those stories together, then you have a real community.” Dombrowski’s poetic sensibilities were cultivated through a combination of factors. When she was a child, her mother would read nursery rhymes, and Rosemarie would memorize them before she could even read. She was a dancer and performed throughout her schooling. For her, dancing had a lyrical quality that she eventually mixed with poetry in high school. Dombrowski was kicked out of two Catholic schools as a young person for “just being expressive.” “I felt like a ‘poet’ because of the way people perceived me,” Dombrowski says. This sentiment is shared by a lot of poets—poetry coming from a place of isolation. Another dimension that shaped her dive into poetry was her father’s death when she was a teenager. This triumvirate cultivated a poet, and she wrote as a form of survival. She moved to Arizona from Missouri with her mother after eighth grade and attended Red Mountain High School—which was kind of a culture shock for her. She went from going to school with all Catholics to attending a majority Mormon school. Dombrowski found a role at the school quickly: teaching the Mormon kids to rebel. She would help sneak girls out of their houses to hang with boys. She was practicing women’s liberation long before she would read Adrienne Rich in college. During her time at Red Mountain, Dombrowski began to integrate poetry with dance. She had a teacher who had received an MFA in dance from ASU and encouraged her to dance to a spoken-word piece. Dombrowski went for it, and it worked out. When she graduated from Red Mountain, she decided to attend Arizona State University and major in anthropology. However, after a few semesters, she realized that she missed reading poetry, so she majored in English, as well. One poetry teacher who profoundly influenced Dombrowski was Susan McCabe. “She was very young and very gay, and I adored her,” Dombrowski said. McCabe was one of the first people to give Dombrowski feedback on JAVA 13 MAGAZINE